The rate of obesity in America has increased over 50 percent in less than 40 years. In 2013, no state reported a prevalence of obesity less than 20 percent, in contrast to 1995, when Mississippi scored at the top of the list with 19.4 percent. The CDC reports that over one-third of American adults are obese, with the greatest concentration located in the South.
Although the relationship between obesity and heart attacks, strokes and diabetes is well-documented, other health risks that obesity can be a contributing factor for are not as well known. The severity of arthritis, infertility and certain cancers are all influenced by weight.
In 2013, the Gallup-Healthways survey reported Mississippi as the state with the highest rate of obesity in America at 35.4 percent, followed closely by West Virginia at 34.4 percent. Delaware reports that 34.3 percent of its adult population is obese. The next most obese states are Louisiana, Arkansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Ohio, Kentucky and Oklahoma. All 10 of these states report rates of obesity higher than 30 percent.
Of these 10, Gallup-Healthways reports that Mississippi, West Virginia, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Kentucky have been included on this list since 2008. In 2013, the national average rate of obesity in America was 27.1 percent, marking a 0.9 percent increase since 2012.
With the exception of Montana, which reported a prevalence of 19.6 percent, more than two out of 10 Americans are obese in every state, with the highest rates located in Southern and Midwestern states. Western and Northeastern states, like Colorado, Massachusetts, Connecticut and California, have consistently reported some of the lowest rates of obesity in America since 2008. In Guam and Puerto Rico, the prevalence of obesity was 27.0 and 27.9 percent respectively.
The data obtained from the Gallups-Healthways survey also demonstrated that the 10 fattest states also reported higher rates of chronic diseases like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, cancer and depression. These states reported an average rate of 35.8 percent of adults living with a diagnosis of high blood pressure. Reinforcing the health risks of obesity are the 10 states with the lowest rate of obesity, which reported an average of 26.4 percent. Residents of the 10 least-obese states also report that residents in these states eat healthier and exercise more frequently, demonstrating that while obesity has plenty of environmental, genetic and social causes, personal habits also heavily affect weight and health.
As obesity in America rises, so does the cost of health care. As of 2013, it costs over $1,300 more to treat an obese individual than someone at a healthy weight. The American Medical Association recognizes obesity as a disease, affecting how it is treated, and the CDC has reported that the rate of childhood obesity has dropped 43 percent nationwide during the past decade.
The drop in childhood obesity in America is especially encouraging. As children are educated about the dangers of obesity and taught more about health, they are less likely to enter adulthood overweight and more likely to contribute to the overall shrinking of American waistlines. Adult obesity rates have also been shown to be affected by race, gender, income and education.
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